Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (French: Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du Jacobinisme) is a book by Abbé Augustin Barruel, a French Jesuit priest. It was written and published in French in 1797-98, and translated into English in 1799.
In the book, Barruel claims that the French Revolution
was the result of a deliberate conspiracy or plot to overthrow the
throne, altar and aristocratic society in Europe. The plot was allegedly
hatched by a coalition of philosophes, Freemasons. The conspirators created a system that was inherited by the Jacobins who operated it to its greatest potential. The Memoirs
purports to expose the Revolution as the culmination of a long history
of subversion. Barruel was not the first to make these charges but he
was the first to present them in a fully developed historical context
and his evidence was on a quite unprecedented scale. Barruel wrote each
of the first three volumes of the book as separate discussions of those
who contributed to the conspiracy. The fourth volume is an attempt to
unite them all in a description of the Jacobins in the French Revolution. Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism is representative of the criticism of the Enlightenment that spread throughout Europe during the Revolutionary period.
Barruel’s Memoirs is considered one of the founding documents of the right-wing interpretation of the French Revolution.
It became popular immediately after it was published and was read and
commented on by most of the important literary and political journals of
the day. The four volumes of the text were published in a number of languages and created a debate about the role of the philosophes,
their ideas, and the Enlightenment in the French Revolution. They
remained in print well into the 20th century and contributed to the
historical interpretation of the late 18th century in France. The
success of Barruel's
work is testimony to the anti-philosophical discourse that spread in
the aftermath of the revolution. Barruel left behind a construction of
the Enlightenment that was destined to influence subsequent
interpretations. He wound accusations tightly around his foes and tied
them into positions from which they could not escape. The text created a link between the Enlightenment and the Revolution and this connection remains a topic of historical debate.
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